Recently I saw a funny but very interesting meme. In a box that read “games then”, it showed a hamburger is with two patties, cheese, and all the fixings that make a burger great under the label “original game”, with fries and a drink both labeled “expansion pack”. The next picture read “games now” with a photo of just an empty bun reading “original game”, with the lettuce, tomato, pickles, and cheese labeled as DLC, and even ketchup and mustard being labeled as “pre-order bonuses”. This is a fantastic representation of how content outside of the original game has expended over the console generation and turned into what it is today.
Downloadable Content, or DLC, has become widely popular with the larger gaming communities like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live. Allowing a person to expand their original game with extra weapons, equipment, or story content can seriously enhance a game’s experience, assuming the content is worth the real money you paid for it. But recently DLC itself has come under fire; with game developers releasing DLC content at launch for hot titles like Destiny and Call of Duty, gamers are beginning to wonder if developers are charging them $60 for an incomplete game. Why not just add this extra content to the finished product?
On one side, gamers really need to realize that gaming is a business, a multi-billion dollar a year business whose focus is creating extra revenue. DLC provides an option to receive that revenue by providing gamers with something they want: more. Gone are the days when most gamers played games over and over with continuing entertainment value. The shortened attention span of the country doesn’t leave much room for a solo game’s replayability, so to keep gamers interested and to make more money off of their product, developers release extra content. It keeps the game fresh while offering a new element. Example: Borderlands 2 has over nine DLC story missions to add to the original experience. The game already has a 30+ hour campaign along with a ton of side quests and weapons, but adding more of those stories, quests, and weapons has been an extremely popular move. The game is already huge and tons of fun, and making it bigger and better is an easy cash cow. The same goes with Skyrim’s DLC. While they only released 3 or 4 DLC packs, most of them were story based and added more to the Elder Scrolls lore as well as making a fantastic gaming experience. There was also DLC that allowed you to build your characters their own houses, an idea no doubt inspired by the popularity of Minecraft.
But then their’s the other side of this argument, how this effects gamers. Sure, squeezing another 10 hours of gameplay out of something you already enjoy is fun, but gamers believe you shouldn’t have to, especially when you offer DLC for a game at launch. A good example is the recently announced Star Wars: Battlefront. Everyone who has the game by December 8th (about 3 weeks after it releases) will be able to download the additional map called “The Battle of Jakku”, which is based on a location in the newest movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you should pre-order the game, however, you get a code that allows you to play the map a week before everyone else. It’s kind of a cool incentive, but it’s not exactly game-changing. When the game Evolve dropped, one of the pre-order bonuses was a monster skin and exclusive skins for weapons and characters. While it will make your character *look* cooler than everyone else’s, it doesn’t really offer much in the way of advantages or changes in gameplay.
So what does this mean for gamers?
Ultimately, it means that gamers have to pay even more for full games. Gamespot.com recently posted an article showing that gamers are now paying up to $180 for a game and all of it’s DLC, three times the cost of what it would be originally. On top of being expensive, some content may not even be worth the trouble, and since there are no refunds on DLC online or in-store, you kind of just have to roll with the punches if you buy a bad product. On the other hand, spending the extra money could be worth it, as games like Dark Souls II offer DLC that’s either more challenging or equally punishing, and games like Titanfall add more fun maps and game modes to destroy your opponents on.
So is DLC killing it for gamers? That depends on your opinion of DLC, and the DLC in question. While releasing full downloadable stories at launch seems pointless, purchasing it adds to an experience, and is completely optional. Sure, this makes it seems like the game isn’t complete, but it’s more of a way to keep you playing than to fill any story gaps (unless we’re talking about Mass Effect 3. Shame on you, Bioware). No DLC is mandatory, so you don’t have to buy what you don’t want, but that doesn’t always mean that when you DO buy it, you’re getting the best product.
DLC isn’t for everyone, and it is’t always amazing, but the same goes for every game you buy. Destiny was supposed to be the Call of Duty killer, but it really only appeals to MMO fans and RPG players who enjoy endless hours of grinding. Evolve was critcally-acclaimed at E3, but it’s fanbase is quite small. The Order:1886 was also slated to be a huge release, but bad reviews and a severe lack of actual gameplay ultimately killed it. The same goes for DLC. Some is great, and some isn’t. And just like a game, whether or not it kills the experience is up to you.